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Objectively Measured Physical Activity Is Associated with Vertebral Size in Midlife


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: August 2019 - Volume 51 - Issue 8 - p 1606–1612
doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000001962

Background Vertebral fractures reduce the quality of life and are a major burden to the health care sector. Small vertebral size is associated with increased vertebral fracture risk. Previous studies have investigated the relationship between physical activity (PA) and vertebral size, but their results seem somewhat contradictory. In this population-based birth cohort study, we aimed to evaluate the relationship between objectively measured PA and vertebral size.

Methods The study population consisted of 1202 cohort participants who underwent PA and vertebral size measurements at the age of 46 to 48 yr. Moderate-to-vigorous PA (MVPA, ≥3.5 METs) was measured by a wrist-worn accelerometer (Polar Active; Polar Electro, Finland) for 14 d. The vertebral axial cross-sectional area (CSA) of the L4 vertebra was measured and calculated from lumbar magnetic resonance imaging scans at 46 to 48 yr. We analyzed the association between the daily amount of MVPA (min·d−1) and vertebral CSA using multivariable linear regression analysis.

Results The daily amount of MVPA was significantly and positively associated with CSA in both sexes. For every minute per day of MVPA, men had 0.71 mm2 (95% confidence interval, 0.36–1.06) and women 0.90 mm2 (95% confidence interval, 0.58–1.21) larger CSA.

Conclusions Physical activity of at least moderate intensity is positively associated with vertebral size and may thus prevent future vertebral fractures.

1Medical Research Center Oulu, Oulu University Hospital and University of Oulu, Oulu, FINLAND;

2Center for Life Course Health Research, University of Oulu, Oulu, FINLAND;

3Research Unit of Medical Imaging, Physics and Technology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Oulu, Oulu, FINLAND;

4Cancer and Translational Medicine Research Unit, Faculty of Medicine, University of Oulu, Oulu, FINLAND;

5Department of Archaeology, Faculty of Humanities, University of Oulu, Oulu, FINLAND;

6Diagnostic Radiology, Oulu University Hospital and University of Oulu, Oulu, FINLAND;

7Oulu Deaconess Institute, Department of Sports and Exercise Medicine, Oulu, FINLAND; and

8Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, Oulu, FINLAND

Address for correspondence: Mahsa Modarress-Sadeghi, M.D., Clinic of Physiatry, Oulu University Hospital, PO Box 21, 90029 OYS, Oulu, Finland; E-mail:

Submitted for publication July 2018.

Accepted for publication February 2019.

Online date: February 26, 2019

© 2019 American College of Sports Medicine